How are your connections these days? To varying degrees, we’re all missing human connections during this tough pandemic year.
So how are your virtual connections? Maybe you’re humming right along, having switched gears to working from home, hooking right up to already-established internet services. Maybe connectivity hasn’t been an issue for you—but for many, it has. And that’s what I want to address in today’s column.
It’s so important, that I’m going to put my “ask” right here, up front: Please join me, and many other community leaders, on Monday, February 22 for the virtual summit, “Broadband Access: Strengthening Communities and Increasing Opportunity As We Plan for a More Connected Future.” It’s from 12 noon through 2 p.m, and it’s organized by the coalition @Home in Adams County. Please register on their website, www.homeinadamscounty.org.
What exactly is broadband? Basically, broadband service makes high-speed data transmission, or internet, possible.
Why should we ALL care about broadband? How does it impact daily life?
Where to begin! Let’s start with teachers, students and school districts pivoting to online learning. Let’s talk about access to services like telehealth—virtual doctor visits. How about ordering groceries online? Or searching for and applying for jobs. And let’s talk about the needs of our businesses and industries, such as manufacturing facilities with high-powered needs in order to run their machines. That’s just for starters.
“Lack of access has inhibited Adams County’s economic growth, and it inhibits access to supportive resources in our community that its resident need to thrive,” says Caroline Johnson, @Home in Adams County Coordinator. “We hope to encourage attendees and local decision makers, with the understanding that increased access to broadband connection is a realistic possibility, invaluable opportunity, and a necessity when planning for Adams County’s future—to ensure the needs of all residents are met.”
Caroline tells me that one of the most exciting aspects of this summit is the collaboration that’s making it possible. The coalition has assembled an incredible lineup of knowledgeable and compassionate speakers and panelists! I am humbled to be a panelist among such talented minds and depth of knowledge. For example, keynote speaker Dr. Kyle Kopko is the Director for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. His work involves a wide range of policy issues that affect rural Pennsylvanians, including broadband.
I’m also thrilled that one of my economic development “neighbors” Silas Chamberlin will lend his voice to the discussion. He’s Vice President of the York County Economic Alliance.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequities in broadband access, but we know this is an issue that predates the pandemic and requires a strategy and systemic change, if we hope to properly address it,” says Silas.
He acknowledges that there’s no quick fix. But, “there are meaningful steps we can take now to lay out long-term strategies, prepare to compete for public funding, entice private investment, and even start building fiber broadband that will lead to meaningful impact in the short term and position us for success in the future.”
What can we learn from Silas and our York County friends?
“In York County, leadership from our county commissioners was essential to our success. Their belief in broadband access as a crucial, countywide issue allowed us to bring people around the table, mobilize the power of county government, and make some bold investments in both strategic planning and actual broadband fiber construction,” says Silas.
His advice to Adams County is this: “Whether it’s a countywide assessment, a demand aggregation study, establishing a task force, or actually pulling fiber, you have to get started somewhere—and the longer you wait, the further ahead other communities, counties, regions, and states will be and the longer residents and businesses will go without reliable access.”
I look forward to learning and listening on February 22. Please join me in attending this vital community event!
As Caroline summarizes, “It feels like we could really get somewhere with this work and I look forward to seeing the positive change we can create together.”
Robin Fitzpatrick is President of Adams Economic Alliance, which comprises three organizations: The Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) and the Adams County General Authority (ACGA). For more information, see adamsalliance.org, or follow us on Twitter (@AdamsAlliance), Facebook (Facebook.com/AdamsAlliance) and LinkedIn (Adams Economic Alliance).